Things Even the Most Cynical Sports Fans Love
The life of a sports fan is one that often averages out to equal parts hope, anxiety, misery and joy. Unless you're a fan from Ohio, in which case the hope and joy parts are substantially lower.
Whether you grew up rooting for a dominant team like the 49ers in the '90s, or have long been suffering from a masochistic allegiance to a floundering club like the Cubs—failure (or the threat of it) is the unwanted companion of the sports fan.
Even if you don't live and die by wins and losses, there are still plenty of reasons for the jaded fan to retreat into a fortress of cynicism when comes to all things sports.
There's always a scandal around the corner. The NCAA's shenanigans and countless grievances alone give cynics a good excuse for doubting the official narrative. Everything on some level, it seems, is irrevocably broken.
However, some things are simply immune to jaundiced eye of the cynical sports fan—even if they won't readily admit it. There are a few moments and traditions that allow us to forget salary-cap issues, player arrests, terrible officiating and everything else that's bad in sports.
These are a precious few things even the most cynical sports fans love.
Little Kid Sports Fans
As long as they're not crying or otherwise ruining a sporting event, little kid sports fans are pretty well liked and appreciated by their larger counterparts.
Their presence at a game, and in our lives in general, is a welcome reminder of our collectively lost youth. Actually, that doesn't sound all that positive.
Whatever though…that little girl is shockingly adorable.
Let's be real. A baseball game is a pretty solid way to spend an afternoon, but during those dog days of summer, energy really starts to lag after the fifth inning.
Enter the seventh inning spectacle.
Now, I can't speak personally for the reception the racing sausages get by Brewers fans in Milwaukee, having never been to a game there. I just wanted to recognize them as the original.
Having been to countless Pirates and Nationals games, I can personally attest to the universal love of the pierogi race in Pittsburgh and the presidents' race in Washington.
I have literally never met anyone who doesn't love these races—and I know almost exclusively cynics.
Last Second Victories
A blowout victory is great for the winning team and their fans, but it's not incredibly compelling for the rest of us. There's nothing like going into the locker room at halftime with one team up 30-points to get people reaching for the remote.
Drama is what really makes a game, and sports in general, great. While rivalries can add a little drama to a lopsided game, it's nothing compared to a hard fought slugfest that isn't decided until the final minutes. Or, better yet, the final seconds.
Drama is: A last second buzzer-beater in basketball, a decisive home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in baseball, a sudden-death overtime goal in playoff hockey and completing a last minute Hail Mary pass down field in football. It doesn't get much better than that.
The Olympic Opening Ceremony
I always see a bunch of people complaining about the Olympics Opening Ceremony on social media when it comes around every two years, but complain as they may, whatever gripes they're sharing with the world obviously aren't serious enough to inspire a channel change.
Which leads me to believe that, whether or not we like to admit it to ourselves or to the world at large, deep down we all appreciate the pageantry and spectacle of the event. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a big patriotic nerd every two years or so.
Don't even bother trying to tell me you were ridiculously impressed by the Opening Ceremony in Beijing and ridiculously confused by what went down in London.
Winning National Gold at the Olympics
For many countries, the Olympics are a source of national pride.
Instead of being pitted against your fellow American, as is always the case with rooting interest in domestic sporting leagues, we can all unite together—U.S. (or us) against the world!
Unless we're talking about Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, which is a very notable exception.
In reality though, it's been almost 70 years since we've actually won a war in this country. Which is why we appreciate an international victory wherever we can get it.
Free stuff is one the great unifiers on this spinning blue marble we call Earth. And the enthusiasm for free stuff is not nearly as closely tied to a person's income as you may think.
I worked in politics for many years and showing up for a free meal and/or taking home leftovers from a public event is something that is not below anyone. I saw interns and low level staffers do it and have seen governors and senators do it too.
The same thing holds true for stadium giveaway days. If the first 15,000 people into the stadium get a bobblehead, you can be sure that at least 5,000 people are going to walk away disappointed.
And that doesn't even count all the people who are going to be disappointed after some greedy pig steals their bobbleheads from under their seats while they're in the bathroom. Yes. That happened to me.
Cameramen's Attention to Pretty Girls
It doesn't matter how grim things are looking for the home team in a game, there is one surefire way to motivate a down crowd to cheer like putting pretty girls up on the Jumbotron. Anyone who has ever been to a few live sporting events can back me up on this.
It works particularly well at hockey games—in fact, that's how Pamela Anderson got her start—but a cameraman with an eye for the ladies can singlehandedly turn the mood of a crowd around.
I can't explain it, but I know never to underestimate the power of a beautiful woman.
Now, obviously I'm not saying that sports fans love when tragedy strikes—only sadistic a-holes revel in the suffering of others. But there's something comforting about the way people all come together, if only for the briefest of moments, when it happens.
Yes, it is a shame that's the only time people can stop saying nasty things to each other these days. Though, I suppose it's better than nothing.
In sports at every level, the walk-on is the ultimate underdog—the underdog of all underdogs—which distinguishes them from everyone else around them. And definitely not in a bad way.
If an athlete makes it onto a college team as walk-on, without a scholarship, or makes his way onto a professional roster as an undrafted free agent, it's a badge of honor that will be prominently displayed throughout his career.
Every accomplishment deemed worthy of a mention by the media will be sweetened by adding the bit about overcoming obstacles along the way. Even minor achievements are amplified in order to further push the underdog stories we can't get enough of.
Two notable walk-ons are Notre Dame's Rudy Ruettiger and Eagles wide receiver Vince Papale, both of whom were the subject of inspirational movies based on their lives. More recent walk-ons include Bulls legend Scottie Pippen and Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.
Draft Day Enthusiasm
First, I'd like to apologize to Ashton Meem, the wife of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, for using this extremely unfortunately timed photo of her. She's a very beautiful woman and this isn't representative of that.
It is, on the other hand, representative of NFL Draft day excitement beyond the handful of athletes invited to New York for the live event. Seeing the eminently likable Wilson visibly devastated to fall into the third round was such a bummer.
A bummer that was completely offset by seeing him overjoyed at being drafted by the Seahawks and crazy like a fox Pete Carroll. Even if you thought the selection was crazy—and I know most of you did—how could you not be happy for Wilson in that moment.
NFL Football in the Snow
There's something about snow, particularly when it's early in the winter, that triggers something good in almost anyone who grew up in a climate with four distinctive seasons.
Maybe it's because the first flakes of the season always bring back childhood memories of snow days—not to mention the enthusiasm for potential snow days—no matter how old you are.
Which may be why so many of us instinctually love NFL games played in the snow.
Even if the mechanics and overall quality of the game suffer because of the weather conditions, you'll remember a bad game played in the snow far longer than an above average game played in the sun.
Today's memory made is tomorrow's nostalgia…and nostalgia is a very powerful drug.
Selection Sunday Reactions
One of the best parts about March Madness is Selection Sunday. More specifically, the reactions from on the bubble schools upon learning of their selection.
Even if you're not super enthused about Akron earning a spot in the NCAA tournament, you cannot not be happy for those guys. Unless you're a terrible human being.
There aren't many athletes whose name doesn't inspire rage in a pretty significant percentage of the population. Players like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Nationals slugger Bryce Harper are very well liked by their own fans, but are far less popular outside of Boston and Washington.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is one of the few athletes whose appeal extends far beyond the fan base of his team. Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and Thunder forward Kevin Durant have similarly broad appeal.
Seahawks underdog quarterback Russell Wilson was actually my first choice for this slide, but I decided to go with AD because I already used Wilson as an example in another slide. Which isn't entirely useful information, I just like to talk about Russell Wilson.
Baseball Opening Day
Opening Day of MLB is the greatest because it represents a clean slate. For fans of many teams it's literally the only day all year when optimism reigns supreme.
When it feels like everything that went wrong last year…and the year before that…and the decade before that…may finally be a thing of the past. Even if, in reality, it won't be.
The spirit of Opening Day and the idea of a clean slate extends beyond the game too. The start of baseball season means the end of winter—at least in reasonable climates.
In with baseball, out with the miserable cold days of winter, which start too early and end too soon.
Athletes Celebrating Like Kids
It seems we're constantly being reminded that professional sports is a business. Even though athletes have every right to put themselves first—no one else is going to take care of them in the long run—with all that talk of money, sometimes you have to wonder if they truly appreciate their position.
Thankfully, every now and again we're reminded that many athletes, if not most of them, do play the game for reasons that extend beyond financial compensation. Of course they appreciate the money, but you don't break down into tears or make confetti angels after a particularly productive day at the office.
Fans like to be reminded that one of the few things we have in common with our favorite professional athletes is a mutual love of the same game.
Athletes Celebrating with Their Kids
The only thing more heartwarming than athletes celebrating like kids, it's athletes celebrating with their kids. The bigger the win, the bigger the stage, the more people who appreciate the scene.
It's always an adorable site to see kids join their parents during championship celebrations, but none in recent memorable is more memorable than Drew Brees and his son after winning the Super Bowl in 2009.
As long as the animal isn't a threat to his own safety or others, there are few things more universally appreciated in sports than when one shows up completely out of nowhere and inexplicably makes itself at home in the middle of a game.
It happens on a pretty regular basis and is almost always amazing. Cows and dogs on the soccer pitch. Alligators and kangaroos on golf courses. Squirrels and cats on baseball fields. Pigeons always on the damn field at Raiders home games.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Annnnnnnd yes—but seriously, what's with all the pigeons in Oakland?
Click here for more photos of that cow who obviously doesn't care.
Seeing the Underdog Finally Win One
You don't have to be a Red Sox fan to appreciate their historic run to the World Series in 2004, which ended nearly a century of pain and misery for fans in Boston. You just have to be not a Yankees or Cardinals fan.
That year the Sox weren't just historic underdogs, dealing with generations of baggage they had no hand in packing, they were completely given up for dead after going down 0-3 to the hated rival Yanks in the ALCS.
No team in MLB history had ever come back to win after losing the first three games in a seven-game series. And if you didn't enjoy watching the Red Sox come back against the Yankees before sweeping the Cardinals, then you have no soul.
Because I don't want to be accused of some sort of Boston-bias, I'd also like to point out how we all came together as a nation in supporting the Giants in their last two Super Bowl victories against the Patriots.
Athletes Leaving on a High Note
There aren't many athletes that leave the game in a way that sparks an outpouring of emotion from fans across a given sport. These days it's extremely rare that a player stays with one team throughout his career, or even for most of it.
Sometimes they stay too long, as was the case with former Packers quarterback Brett Favre. Sometimes they leave too early, as was the case with former Giants running back Tiki Barber.
It's hard to get it just right, as was the case with recently retired Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera. He played his entire stellar career, which spanned nearly two decades, before making the decision to call it quits at just the right time.
**Speaking of good decisions, it would be one to follow me on Twitter: Follow @blamberr